Review: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

my basmati bat mitzvah

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

Tara’s father is Jewish and her mother is East Indian, so Tara has mixed feelings about her upcoming bat mitzvah.  Some of the kids in her Hebrew class even wonder if she is actually Jewish at all.  Tara though is more concerned with whether she actually believes in God and if she doesn’t, does that mean that she can’t have a bat mitzvah?  She also worries about what celebrating this side of her family says to the other side.  So Tara decides to make sure that both sides of her family are represented by wearing a family sari that had been passed down for generations.  Unfortunately though, the sari is accidentally burned and Tara has to figure out how to tell her mother about it.  But that’s not the only complexity in Tara’s life.  Her best friend Rebecca seems to be spending more time with another girl, someone that Tara doesn’t get along with.  Her other best friend Ben-o seems interested in being more than friends sometimes but other times spends a lot of time with another girl.  It’s up to Tara to navigate all of the confusion and make her bat mitzvah her own.

Freedman very successfully tells the story of a young woman dealing with two distinct family heritages.  Happily, she doesn’t feel the need to build heightened angst about it, allowing Tara’s personal doubts to really drive this part of the story.  Her family around her does not have the same feelings, sharing holidays with one another and enjoying the same foods, most of the time. 

The book has a lightness of tone that makes the book very enjoyable.  Freedman explores bullying with a perfect touch, but less successfully explores the underlying issues.  Tara is a strong heroine who is far from perfect.  She has a temper, responds physically at times, and can be too self-absorbed to really see what is happening with her friends.

Hurrah for a book with a brown-skinned girl right on the cover that explores her multicultural heritage in such a straight-forward way!  Appropriate for ages 11-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet Books.

Review: Musk Ox Counts by Erin Cabatingan

musk ox counts

Musk Ox Counts by Erin Cabatingan, illustrated by Matthew Myers

The characters from A is for Musk Ox return for a counting book this time.  A counting book should be fairly straight forward, it’s counting after all.  But Musk Ox has different ideas.  Must to Zebra’s dismay, he doesn’t even make it to number one at the beginning of the book to be counted as one Musk Ox.  Instead he is on the page with 2 yaks.  Musk Ox offers to fix the problem on the page for number one, but still messes up the 2 yaks page.  Zebra is beside himself and a sulky Musk Ox heads back to page one on his own.  But he doesn’t stay there for long!  Expect plenty of counting chaos throughout the book though there is also some easy addition thrown in too. 

I enjoyed this book almost as much as the first one.  This one has the joy of returning to two engaging characters.  As with the first, you never know what is going to happen on the next page, making it very engaging reading.  Cabatingan writes the two characters with zingy dialogue and the book is a must for reading aloud. 

Myers’ illustrations add to the zany book.  He manages to keep crowded pages from being confusing as the number mount.  He also uses the effect of Musk Ox and Zebra peeking through from other pages very nicely. 

The result is a counting book worth sharing aloud to a group of preschoolers, and there aren’t many counting books that you can say that about!  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.